Can Motorsport Valley produce the world’s greenest car?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, March 19th, 2010

 
 

Can a British motorsport company produce a car with the smallest environmental footprint the world has ever seen?

That’s the challenge taken on by Silverstone-based engineering consultancy Delta Motorsport. They may be more familiar to you as one of the outfits working to keep teams like Hitech and Alan Docking Racing on the track but, while keeping a hand in with racing action, they’ve been quietly competing for a multi-million dollar international prize.

The Progressive Automotive X-Prize is based around the goal of designing, building and selling super-efficient cars that people want to buy. It is run by the X-Prize Foundation, an organisation with no less an ambition than funding technological breakthrough with the potential to benefit humanity.

Run and funded by an alliance of philanthropists, entrepreneurs and commercial partners, the Foundation is offering $10 million worth of prizes to be handed out in September this year. They will be awarded for the development of a clean, production-capable vehicle that exceeds the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon fuel efficiency.

Previous X-Prizes have funded Virgin’s development of commercial space flight as well as the development of human genome sequencing and progress towards renewed human exploration of the moon.

Anyone paying attention to racing knows that the UK’s Motorsport Valley contains some of the world’s foremost performance engineering expertise and innovation. And nothing would go further towards proving it than international recognition of its potential to develop an achievable green road car.

Bearing this in mind, it is surprising that only one British team has entered. However, encouraging developments in this area also include the entry of Williams Hybrid Technology, a subsidiary of the Williams F1 team, into the Kinerstor project which is developing a flywheel-based energy-saving system prototype for the mass automotive market.

Delta’s car has been in development since 2007 and its potential had already been recognised by the East Midlands Regional Development Agency, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and the Motorsport Industry Association.

The company was accepted into the X-Prize competition in April last year. It learned in October that it had progressed to the next stage and next up is a round known as the technical qualifiers that the four-seater Delta E-4 Coupé will have to get through to progress.

The track stage of the competition is to be held at Michigan International Speedway in the United States where Delta will be competing against teams from across the US and Canada as well as China, Italy, Finland, The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Thailand.

The company is run by technical director Nick Carpenter, who has an extensive CV in both road and race car engineering, and managing director Simon Dowson. Nick has set up a blog charting the development of the Delta project which you can follow here.

It says on its website: “We’re racers at heart and just can’t resist a competition, so we’ve also decided to take the car to race in North America for the $10million Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize in 2010.”

The car aims to use minimal weight, optimal aerodynamics and mechanical efficiency to slash its energy consumption – exactly as happens in every race car that is ever built. The company is also using motorsport’s traditional development techniques, including design and simulation tools, to tackle the challenge of getting the vehicle on the road at an affordable price.

The aim has been to start with a plug-in battery-powered model that offers a range of up to 250 miles and the company is hopeful of “phenomenal performance and handling”. For more details, visit its website here.

Thanks to Wired Autopia for the heads-up about this story. You can read their version here.

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